Austrian Beer Fest: Don Your Lederhosen!
ALTAUSSEE, Austria (AP) - Dirndls, lederhosen, an oom-pah-pah band and beer: It doesn’t get more traditional than this when the sleepy Austrian village of Altaussee wakes up for a nonstop beer party, Sept. 4-6.
The annual three-day beer fest is sometimes described as a more intimate and less commercial version of Germany’s Oktoberfest. It marks its 50th anniversary this year in Altaussee, a quaint hamlet located 186 miles (300 kilometers) west of Vienna.
Showing up in traditional garb is a must. So if you’ve ever wanted to don an Austrian dirndl or lounge around in lederhosen and knee socks for a few days - this is your chance.
Organized by the local fire department, the annual beer fest draws both droves of locals and a large crowd from the Austrian capital.
It was with one of these Viennese groups that I decided to make the trip last year.
Within minutes of our arrival, the owner of the inn we stayed at welcomed us with a hearty "Griass eich!" (an informal greeting in the local dialect). We had entered another world where talk revolved not around politics or the financial crisis but about the strength of the local schnapps.
The epicenter of the event is the so-called beer tent ("Bierzelt" in German) crammed with wooden benches, tables and counters selling sausages, roast chicken and, of course, beer. From a stage in the center, bands pump out "oom-pah-pah" tunes that, in the early hours of Sunday morning, oddly enough included an Austrian rendition of "The Final Countdown." A small fairground lies to one side the tent, complete with rides and stalls selling sweets and gingerbread hearts.
As the tent fills up to maximum capacity, you might consider securing a spot at the Wirtschaft Altaussee, an inn a stone’s throw away where, as the night wears on, patrons are known to dance on tables to Austrian and German pop songs. Or for a more formal dinner, try the restaurant at the Gasthof zum Hirschen where we spotted Hannes Androsch, a well-known entrepreneur and former Austrian finance minister.
The festivities also attract people from farther field.
Take Ronnie McGeehan for example, a Scotsman who lives in the German city of Erlangen.
"There’s a great atmosphere here," he said while waiting in line to try the tent’s much-touted chicken.
Or John Semone, from San Francisco, who described the weekend as "something quite different and traditional."
"You see a lot of pretty girls - and good-looking guys too," he added.